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Cayman’s borders could be closed to travellers for several months, the territory’s leaders acknowledged Monday. The islands may have to wait for a vaccine or for universal testing before allowing visitors to return, public health officials warned.
Though an emergency British Airways flight has been arranged for next week to allow people to evacuate the UK and return to Cayman, there is no prospect of passenger travel resuming in the near future.
Premier Alden McLaughlin acknowledged that opening the borders was still a long way off and that Cayman’s key industries of financial services and tourism would be hard hit for a long time.
“This is going to be a much longer-term event than most people actually grasp,” he said. “It is going to be quite a while before we can bring visitors back here.”
The number of reports of the virus is rapidly growing in the US, which has become the new epicentre of COVID-19. Asked what it would take before Cayman could allow visitors back, the premier referred questions to the health experts on the panel at Monday’s press briefing.
Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s chief medical officer, said science would likely dictate the timing of when the borders could reopen.
“I think the answer is probably going to come from science and developments around testing and vaccination. I don’t see this disease burning itself out through the entire world for quite some time, but if we get to a point where we can test people and know if they are immune to it, that is a point where we could relax a lot of the things we have in place,” Lee said.
McLaughlin noted that no country in the world could survive with closed borders for too long, but he warned it could be next year before the world economy returned to normal.
He said Cayman’s tourism and financial services sectors would be badly hurt in the process.
“We are between the devil and the deep blue sea,” he said.
The premier said he drew some comfort from the fact that every country in the world was facing the same issue.
Cayman’s air border closed Sunday, 22 March, for an initial three weeks. McLaughlin has already stated that the closure will most likely be extended for at least another three weeks, and his comments Monday suggest it could be significantly longer.
Cruise ships were banned for an initial 60 days, a week before the air closure, but there is little prospect of that ban being lifted within that time frame.
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